February          2008
VOL. 12             NO. 1
  The Independent Traveler's Newsletter

       The Mimosa Route & Mardi Gras in the South of France
                                                                                by Anita Rieu-Sicart
                                                                                publisher of the Var Village Voice**

The Warm & Sunny Southeast:
 ~ The Mimosa Route & Mardi Gras
  by Anita Rieu-Sicart

Paris Enigmas

Ici et Là

Rue du Moulin 
  by Corey Amaro

The Bookshelf:
  ~ 26 Gorgeous Hikes on the 
                    Western Côte d'Azur
  a book by Florence Chatzigianis

Revisiting Good Old Avignon
  by Arthur Gillette

A sea of mimosas in bloom - Photo © Anita Rieu-Sicart / Var Village Voice 2008.  All Rights Reserved.

Mimosas in the Var of Provence

    The Savoie

Where to Stay 
  ~  in the southeast
     . Château de Méouilles
     . Château de Seillans
  in Savoie
     . Château des Allues

French Wine Report:
 ~ Champagne dinner features Ruinart
   by Panos Kakaviatos


It is the deep of winter in some parts of the northern hemisphere, so we will be 
off to the lovely and, hopefully, warmer sunny southeast corner of France ~
the Côte d'Azur and its environs.  We hope we can tempt you to visit there!

You could be forgiven for thinking February is totally yellow in the Var, just up from the Riviera, for the Mimosa will shortly be flowering along the autoroute to Nice and from Bormes Les Mimosa the entire length of the special Mimosa Trail, which winds along the coast from there via Rayol Close-up of Mimosa blossoms - © Anita Rieu-Sicart / Var Village Voice 2008.  All Rights Reserved.Canadel, Ste-Maxime, St-Raphael, and Tanneron to Cannes Mandelieu, winding up finally in Grasse, the perfume town in the hills.

And, if that were not enough lemon yellow ~ together with orange ~ it will be the predominant color at Menton's celebrated Lemon Festival on the border with Italy.  From February on colors break out in zeitgeist explosion in all the Mardi Gras Carnival parades, from small village events to the gigantic Mardi Gras celebrations in Nice!

Mimosa Fests ~  Bormes to Grasse

The Mimosa Fests really start in mid-January with the elections of Miss Mimosa in Ste-Maxime and Pégomas, and from then on a huge program stretches on throughout January, February and right into March, involving guided walks, tours, coach excursions, and beautiful flower-laden parades. 

Mimosa, part of the acacia family, was originally brought to Europe from Australia by the explorer Captain Cook, and eventually around 1850, when it had became fashionable for some wealthy English to spend their winters in Riviera resorts, finally arrived in this region.  Queen Victoria was a great fan of the Riviera, and in her latter years visited regularly taking pleasure in the local carnivals!  These expatriate part-time residents, several of them passionate gardeners, brought over several varieties of mimosa, doubtless from places like Kew where it had been cultured, to decorate their gardens and delighting in the region's gentle climate took to creating magnificent gardens. Several of these survive to this day and can be visited. Chief among them is the Serre de la Madonne garden, created by Lawrence Johnston, designer of Hidcote Manor Garden in the UK.

Several Mimosa varieties acclimated perfectly in the region due to the similarities with the climate from which they had originally come, including ‘Acacia dealbata’ which little by little adapted to the sandy soil of Cannes and Golfe-Juan, forming large enclaves. This chain has since stretched out towards the south to the Maures, the Esterel, and the Massif de Tanneron to Nice.  Due to the exceptionally mild climate on the coast, the plants and flowers grow abundantly, garlanding the open spaces of the Esterel, and making the Autoroute du Soleil a feast of wild yellow flowers in February.

The propagation and culture of Mimosa throughout the region has helped to make the Var and the Alpes-Maritimes major French horticultural départements and a centre for the export of cut flowers all over the 
           Mardi Gras Poster                                                                                                               continued on page 2

Look inside

  to read an expat's tale of changing times in her little French village: Rue du Moulin paints a picture of sweet memories of things lost.


>  to continue our visit in the south of France with Arthur Gillette's exploration of historic Avignon.


> and read our review of 26 Gorgeous Hikes in the Western Côte d'Azur, a guide for those who would enjoy hiking the back country or along the coast of the Mediterranean to experience the natural wonders and beauty of the southern corner of France.


> as we depart from the southern reaches of France and go just a bit north to the Savoie département where winter sports and summer leisure are equally as enjoyable.


> as we join Panos Kakaviatos at a Champagne tasting dinner in Washington DC ~ our current French Wine Report.

  PARIS ENIGMAS . . . A Quiz on Your Knowledge of Historic Paris
                                                                                                                    by Arthur Gillette

Question from the last issue:  Why is the Île Saint-Louis (St. Louis Island) so named?

Answer:   Because it was there (on a still-barren piece of land very vulnerable to flooding) that in the 13th century King (and later Saint) Louis IX  made a vow to undertake a Crusade. The same day and place, he also dubbed his son a knight.

Our new question:    In topographical terms, why were the Seine's Right and Left Banks in Paris so named?

Contact Arthur Gillette,  and take advantage of his amazing knowledge of Paris
 by enjoying one or more of his Paris Through the Ages StrollsEmail:armedv@aol.com

[See the answer to this edition's question
revealed in our May 2008 issue.]


An art lesson at Maison des Remparts, Saignon

A dream vacation awaits you at Maison des Remparts in the idyllic perched village of
Saignon in Provence's Luberon.  Small groups are welcomed to participate in cooking or
painting classes, and it's the perfect spot for a wedding or anniversary celebration!
Click on the photo to learn more or email us at publisher@franceonyourown.com.

[Reach many thousands of Francophiles by advertising in FRANCE On Your Own. Email advertise@franceonyourown.com]

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